The Rise of Agile

KB_smallBy Kirsten Butzow, Pragmatic Institute Instructor  To ensure continued business success, you know your products need to evolve. And that requires innovation.  Kirsten Butzow, who has 20 years of experience in leading technology companies like Fujitsu, Pearson and Blackboard, recently delved into three trends that are driving product innovation. Through our understanding of these trends—agile development, data-driven decisions, and the emergence of design—we can harness the power of innovation. We’ll dig deeper into these trends and Butzow’s perspectives in this three-part series. The first trend: The Rise of Agile.  Innovation Trend #1: The Rise of Agile What if you could reduce risk within your product team, remain continually on the verge of innovation and deliver products to customers at a rapid rate? By adopting the principles of agile development, companies are finding they can do just that. In fact, according to VersionOne’s State of Agile Report, 95 percent of respondents said their companies practice some form of agile. And it’s pretty easy to understand why when you consider the quantifiable benefits. Benefits of Agile QSM Associates’ Report The Impact of Agile compared agile projects to waterfall projects and found that agile projects:
  • Were 37 percent faster to market
  • Had teams that were 16 percent more productive
And here’s a surprising detail: Even as velocity and productivity increased, quality held consistent. The rise of agile development has really driven home the importance of testing your product and its features before release, but now, more and more companies are recognizing that agile is not just for software development. In fact, stand-ups, sprints and iterative thinking are spreading across the organization. We can prototype, change and adapt all parts of our product planning, including marketing tactics, messaging, business plans and sales and customer support enablement strategies.  Agile and Product Innovation How does agile affect product innovation, and what does it mean for your business? The fact that we are able to increase throughput and reduce cycle time makes agile compelling indeed. But agile also risks increasing the pace of unused product development initiatives too. According to the Standish Group’s 2015 Chaos Report, only 9 percent of software projects at large companies are successful and for every 100 projects started, 94 will have to be re-started at least once. The primary reason for failure was a lack of user input and involvement. Put another way: When we convert to agile, if we don’t involve our market in our product planning and development, we run the risk of simply accelerating the pace of unwanted products. For agile to succeed, we have the core principles of product innovation firmly in place and that includes gathering, validating and clearly defining our requirements at both the beginning of and throughout each development cycle. It’s not just about building products quickly—it’s about building the right products quickly. If you really want to reduce the risk of innovation through agile, you have to pause to ensure you truly understand your customers’ requirements. After all, we want to make sure our market wants what we’re building. The success of agile begins with a true understanding of your market and converting that market understanding into impactful requirements. Then, you need the discipline to fully integrate all parts of the development process: requirements, design, build and test—even sales and marketing. That way, agile’s “fail early, fail often” concept not only helps accelerate innovation—but also optimizes our business returns and reduces the overall risk associated with product development. When you have this discipline within the constructs of an agile approach, you’re never far from a valuable innovation that your customers desire. NEXT WEEK: What other trends are affecting product innovation? Check out Data-Driven Decisions, the second part of our three-part series.    

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